Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Posts Tagged ‘windows’

Bugs in the Wild: The Paradoxical Error Message Edition

Posted by Steve on April 23, 2009

A friend recently sent out a screenshot of a quite humourous error message. He was attempting to free up some space on a network drive, by deleting some files, when he received this less than helpful error message:

Error message that appeared when deleting a file

Error message that appeared when deleting a file

The text in the error message is:

Cannot delete week4: There is not enough free disk space.
Delete one or more files to free disk space, and then try again.

It can be seen that this is a faulty error message, and something else is really afoot; one cannot delete files if one cannot delete files.

An interesting question here is why this error message came up? Is this the actual reason the file cannot be deleted, if so a different error message should be displayed so as not to confuse people. If this is not the cause of the issue, then why did this message get displayed?


Posted in Bugs in the wild | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Anatomy of an Error Message – A Windows Vista Example

Posted by Steve on April 2, 2009

I have recently had a somewhat frequent recurrence of an error message on my laptop, which is running Windows Vista. The error message can be seen below:

Windows Vista Error Message

Windows Vista Error Message

The error message popped up (for seemingly no apparent reason), and to make matters worse, when I clicked cancel a new instance of the error message popped up, and I had to close it about 30-40 times before it stopped popping up!

You’ll notice that the first issue with this error message is that it is extremely uninformative and has indecipherable information, something the user should never see. This lack of information made so that I was unable to identify what was causing the error therefore I was not able to stop it from happening (as a quick note, I did not unplug any disks at the time, so it did not have to do with that). Subsequently, since the first incident, this has occurred a few more times with no real pattern as to what is causing it.

A bad error message is good illustrator to what a good error message should be. A good error message should have the following:

  • An informative title – A user should know what caused the issue
  • Actual error message should provide user with information on how to fix the problem
  • Finally it should provide the user with actions that will help fix the problem identify in the message

The only thing the above error message has going for it is that its title gives a clue as to the issue.

To quickly summarize, the goal of an error message is to inform the user that there has been an error, what caused the error, how to fix the error and finally some actions you can take to fix it.

Posted in Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

IE Automation with Ruby: Catching pop-up Windows

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2008

Firstly I need to define what I mean my pop-up Windows. The pop-up windows that cause trouble are not internet explorer based windows, they are actually ‘Windows’ windows, (sorry if thats confusing). The ones that I am referring to are the ones that come up when, for example, you click on a download link. These are inherently a pain because of the fact that they are not IE windows. Luckily there is a pretty simple work around that i have come up with.

Ruby has access to the WIN32OLE library , which is basically like an API for windows applications. What you can do is use this library  to catch these pop up windows. Below is the code that you’ll need to run in a Ruby script:

require ‘win32ole’                                #Loads the win32ole library
wsh = #For more info click here
wsh.AppActivate(‘Connect’)                #Focuses on a given application based on its Title

At this point you can manipulate the window, for example, with a SendKeys command:

wsh.SendKeys(“%{F4}”) #This would close the program with Alt-F4

This clearly has it’s limitations because during this time you cannot be doing things on your computer, because the AppActivate would fail. I am still looking for a lower level at which I can address this problem.

Now everyone likes to see code at work, so I have written a quick script that goes to the Notepad++ downloads page, clicks the download link, and then closes the pop-up download window. As a quick side note, if you do not already use notepad++ I highly recommend it!

require ‘win32ole’
require ‘watir’

wsh =‘Wscript.Shell’)

ie.frame(:name, “index”).link(:text, “Download”).click #Good example of how to execute a link in a Frame
ie.frame(:name, “index”).link(:text, “Download Notepad++ executable files”).click

sleep 20 #need to wait for source forge to load it is slow
ie1 = Watir::IE.attach(:title, /Source/), “showfiles_download_file_pkg0_1rel0_2”).click

wsh.AppActivate(“File Download – Security Warning”) #Focuses on the pop up window
wsh.SendKeys(“%{F4}”) #Sends the alt-F4 command to the window to close it

Watir::IE.close_all #Closes all open IE windows

So if you are interested try the script out, I did try it out myself to make sure it worked, but let me know if you have any difficulties!


Posted in IE Automation/Watir/Ruby, Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Creating specific files in windows with fsutil

Posted by Steve on July 10, 2008

This post comes from a recent issue I had recently, that was actually solved very easily with a built in windows tool. While running a test scenario, I needed to fill up a 20 GB disk. I have had to do with before, and it is pretty simple to do, you just grab some large files a copy them over and over again. I will never be doing that again thanks to a fancy little tool, fsutil.

fsutil is a built in windows program that has a whole bevy of options. You can open up a command line window and type fsutil to get the following options:

—- Commands Supported —-
behavior Control file system behavior
dirty Manage volume dirty bit
file File specific commands
fsinfo File system information
hardlink Hardlink management
objectid Object ID management
quota Quota management
reparsepoint Reparse point management
sparse Sparse file control
usn USN management
volume Volume management

From here you can get more details about any of the above features by entering fsutil “Feature Name”. So to create the large file we want to see the file options but entering fsutil file. Typing this in the command window gives the following output:

—- FILE Commands Supported —-
findbysid Find a file by security identifier
queryallocranges Query the allocated ranges for a file
setshortname Set the short name for a file
setvaliddata Set the valid data length for a file
setzerodata Set the zero data for a file
createnew Creates a new file of a specified size

So to create the large file, you need to use the createnew. So you can type in fsutil file createnew to see the usage as well as an example!

Usage : fsutil file createnew <filename> <length>
Eg : fsutil file createnew C:\testfile.txt 1000

It is important to note that the length, actually is the length in bytes, so a value of 1000, will be 1KB. There we are, any file of any size can be created. I foresee using this many times in the future, I also see exploring the fsutil feature much more, as it seems like a useful tool.


Was this post useful? Could I improve on the layout of how I present these quick little tutorials? If so leave me a line, and let me know, I would love some feedback!

Posted in Testing, Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »